Reviews, Views and Adventures in Content Creation

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The Social Media Guillotine

The problem with sticking your neck out is that you can never be sure your head won't get cut off.

Though I've been involved in aspects of social media for quite a number of years (I started my first blog in 2005), I really didn't seriously “launch” myself into the universe until 2010.  I ramped up a new blog to record my impressions, started a YouTube channel to experiment in that world, began using Twitter to pull it all together, and pondered what this new world of accessible media would mean to my future.

My current projects: one, an "evolution" of documentary filmmaking, and the other a genre novel offered in both e-book and tradtional editions (click on the image for the respective Facebook pages)

I've worked in aspects of visual media all of my life - I make my living as a creator of documentary, promotional and educational media. I sometimes work as an editor as well. I've won recognition, including three Emmy awards, and I sometimes have taught filmmaking workshops as well.

Creatively, though, I'm not where I want to be. 

Since I began to explore social media and watching the masters at work (people like Gary Vaynerchuk and even the icons of YouTube, I've developed several hunches about "what this all means"  to me:

  1. Social Media technology is an entrepreneur's playground.  More importantly, it allows more people in more places around the world the chance to become entrepreneurs than ever before, and reach a worldwide audience
  2. Creative entrepreneurs - content creators from YouTubers to writers of ebooks - have an opportunity to achieve their individual goals - as long as their individual goals aren't simply tied to just one social media platform.  

The key, I've come to believe, is to establish personal creative goals, and then perceive the entirety of social media as an opportunity to achieve those goals.

I also believe that many content creators don't appreciate that their talents are bigger than the platforms they use.  Many talented YouTubers see success on that site at their only option - instead of just part of a bigger picture. 

My beliefs, though, have been largely theories.  Beginning last year, I began my own “grand” experiment to put those theories to work.

"My Life at the Bottom of the Food Chain," the book I'm preparing to publish, is part of that process; so is "Life Online," my documentary about a family living their lives in social media.  

How has it been going?

My Indiegogo campaign for "Life Online" raised only 13 percent of my budget, while another YouTube centered documentary -  created by and starring YouTube celebrities -  was fully funded to the tune of one hundred and seventy thousand dollars. That proves, of course, the power of a wide social media base.

But what about the rest of us?  How does it work for most people?  How can we put social media to “work” effectively - even if we don't have followers that number into the many thousands?

And what does “work” mean, anyway?

I’m reevaluating “Life Online,” with a wider perspective that reflects the landscape of social media - and it’s returning me to the heart of why I wanted to make the film in the first place.

I called "Life Online" a YouTube documentary  - but I was wrong. It's much more than that - it's a story everyone - young and old - is struggling to understand:  what does this mean to me?  How can it help me achieve my dreams? What's possible now that was never possible before?  How - on a very personal level - does it impact the nature of our relationships?

I've realized that in seeking simply to make a documentary - a finite, single linear program - I was missing the point.  The key to telling the story isn't to reach out in one dimension. 

"Life Online" can use a wide range of approaches.  It might be a documentary - but it could take forms, too. .  Some of the approaches I'm considering include creating an "enhanced" e-book - including not only the written word, but embedded video, audio and perhaps active links to engage the reader in the story at hand. I might also consider interactive mobile apps allowing not only a linear story, but, options to branch off with individual family members and experience a family dynamic in a very original - and I hope, entertaining - way.

As part of the project, I would also create a video workshop with the family - involving them intimately in the filmmaking process.

It’s a huge challenge - perhaps even bigger than the concept I posted on Indiegogo a couple of months ago - but it's an exciting evolution.

The journey continues.  Let’s see if I can keep my head on!


  1. I think unless you already are a "weblebrity" or "celebrity" you social media based is a challenge to develop. They cross promote audiences and that's how they built their following. Traditionally the networks distribute content. Even then only some productions last but it too eventually ends. I think you need to stay true to you, continue to work at relationships across all platforms and hope for the best. I know that's been my goal with my boys. Will it work out? Time will tell. It's the journey you have to love.

    1. I wouldn't be the first to say that it's potentially more powerful to have a small, engaged network than a large passive network...

  2. I think I might need to set some personal creative goals too. Life is changing.